The National Federation of Independent Business' Small Business Legal Foundation is asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to rule in favor of including hearing loss among the injuries covered under workers' compensation.
The NFIB Small Business Legal Center filed an amicus brief in the case of Arrant v. Graphic Packing International. The case involves whether or not it is better for employers that occupational disease and injuries be covered through the workers' compensation system or by filing individual tort claims.
In its brief, the Legal Center points out that noise-induced hearing loss is covered under workers' compensation in over 40 states as well as the District of Columbia, meaning that it cannot form the basis of a separate legal action against an employer.
"Excluding noise-related hearing loss from workers' compensation puts Louisiana employers at a real disadvantage," said Dawn Starns, state director of NFIB/Louisiana, the state's leading small-business association with 4,300 dues-paying members representing a cross section of the state's economy.
"Small businesses especially can't afford for plaintiffs to litigate claims that, in some cases, may be decades old and essentially sidestep the workers' comp system to sue employers for alleged injuries that occurred in the workplace," Starns said. "The cost of defending against even one bogus claim may be great enough to drive an employer out of business.
"If we're going to stay competitive and create an environment where small businesses can grow and create jobs, we need to do everything we can to protect employers from costly litigation and deal with these claims within the workers' comp system, which is where they belong," she said.